Yearly Archives: 2010

“Back to school… back to school…”

[quote]”…to prove to Dad, that I’m not a fool”[/quote]

By Chris H.

Points if you recognize the above movie quote correctly.

Well, internet readers, here we are at the end of summer 2010. Leaves are turning, they finally managed to get rid of the last of the summer students still hanging around until the “bitter end”. I put quotes around it because I have literally had this conversation about twenty times in the last few weeks:

“Hey, when are you working until?”

“August 27th.”

“oooh… the bitter end!”

Why do we think of the end as being “bitter”? I don’t feel bitter in the slightest. If anything I would say it feels bittersweet. As I look back on the summer, I’m thankful for having had the experience, and a little sad to be leaving. But I’m also very excited to get back to the student lifestyle, especially since I am leaving on Monday for an exchange term in the Netherlands. Having had a taste of work life, I’m sure all of us will appreciate student life a heck of a lot more and really get the most out of third year. Both academically speaking and in terms of my grand plans to sleep in more and grow a beard.

I wanted to leave the blog with a few reflections on my time as a summer student. I choose to present them in the form of me being interviewed by Barbara Walters.

Hello, we’re here tonight with Chris, up until recently a summer student at Toronto law firm Cassels Brock and Blackwell.

Good to be here, Babs.

Tell me, what was the hardest part of being a summer student?

The constant fear that you have no idea what you’re doing. After a while, though, I started to get more comfortable. I realized we’re not supposed to know anything about what practice is actually like and that’s why we’re here: to learn. There’s a reason our job title includes “student”.

Also the exhaustion. I found the transition from my usual student sleep schedule to work life was very jarring. I drank a lot of coffee. It’s definitely an adjustment.

What were the highlights of your summer?

Oh my gosh, so many to choose from. Work-wise here’s three:

  • Going to small claims court to watch a litigator with 40+ years experience, appearances at the SCC and a QC designation argue and win on motions that I helped draft.
  • Attending two full days of an examination for discovery in a franchise litigation file I had done some work on.
  • Putting together an application to appeal a recent CRTC decision, which involved lots of direct client contact.

And of course extra-curricularly, there were highlights as well. The bbq/pool-party we had about halfway through the summer when Keri and Carolyn switched, our magical mystery wine tour to Niagara and our wildly successful firm talent show in support of Holland Bloorview Kids Rehab are the ones I will remember for a long time.

Can I get in touch with you and ask any questions about OCIs or generally how to be awesome?

Why, that’s strange that you’d be interested in that Barbara, but of course. Drop me a line anytime at

Final question, and it’s a toughie: what was the “song of the summer”?

Wow. That is a tough question. This was not like last summer, where if you thought the song of the summer was anything other than “I Gotta Feeling” I would’ve said you lived under a rock and instantly lost all faith in your ability to appreciate music. It was kind of a weak year, there wasn’t really a stand out candidate. My favourite album was probably Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” but I’m a firm believer that the song of the summer has to have gotten play on top-40 radio. Drake was big, the Bieb was doin’ his thing, Taio Cruz came out of nowhere to be all over the radio. I would almost give to “California Gurls” by Katy Perry… but I hate that song.

If for no other reason than they played it every time Jose Bautista stepped to the plate, the song of the summer of 2010 was “OMG” by Usher. Congratulations, Mr. Raymond. You can add this to your resume.

That’s all the time we have for tonight, thanks for joining us.

The pleasure was all mine.

(end scene)

That’s all folks. Good luck to all the aspiring summer students (and aspiring summer student bloggers) with your applications, and thanks to my many, many fans and readers, especially Zach, Leigh-Ann, John Gillies and my Mom, all of whom read every single post.

And I’m gone…

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Mental Edges for OCIs

by: Josh C.

For my last entry here on the blog, I’d also like to discuss OCIs briefly. If you’re reading this, you will have seen that Chris and Tali have provided invaluable advice for resumes, cover letters, interviews, etc. These topics have been covered so thoroughly, I don’t think I can contribute anything else on them. Instead, I’d like to focus on a different aspect: the mental side of recruiting.

A lot of hype gets built up among fresh 2Ls about OCIs and it will likely be one of the only things you hear about for two months. The way the numbers work means that a substantial number of 2Ls who apply through OCIs will not receive an offer for a summer position. I had the fortune of knowing a few people in the years above me who were willing to impart their guidance about the process. They told me that year after year, many qualified people do not get an offer and that I shouldn’t feel like it’s the end of the world if it were to happen to me. Their words may not sound optimistic but I thought it was a realistic view of what happens.

At the time, I was constantly asking myself questions like “What if I don’t get an offer?” and “What if no one wants to hire me?”. I realized that these questions were disempowering for two reasons: 1) when you ask yourself things like this, you’re psyching yourself out and not in a productive state of mind and 2) it’s very easy to start thinking that the worst is going to happen. Rather than get completely caught up, I decided to change my way of thinking. I chose not to invest myself completely in the OCI process and would take whatever outcome in stride. That isn’t to say that I stopped working on my application or stopped putting forward my best effort. I just simply realized that this wasn’t an end but rather a step in a sequence. As soon as I changed my mindset, everything was easier. I was calmly editing my cover letters and resumes instead of agonizing over paragraph length and synonyms. Interviews and cocktail parties were no longer stressful interrogations but rather opportunities to talk to people about a million different topics. Everything was easier.

When you don’t completely invest yourself in a particular outcome, I think that you can see things from a more objective perspective and determine your strengths and weaknesses. Moral of the story: change your mental approach and you will not only avoid disappointment if you don’t get what you want but you’ll also likely improve your chances in achieving your goals. It helped me and hopefully it helps some of you.

Have a great rest of the summer and good luck on whatever goals you set out to achieve.

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Summer Studenting Corporate Lawing

by: Josh C.

Since Jeremy put up a blog about what he did as a summer student working primarily in litigation, I thought it would be a good idea to talk about what I did this summer since I worked mostly in corporate and securities.

If legal research is the foundation of litigation then due diligence is the foundation of corporate law. The term has been mentioned on the blog before but it’s basically reviewing documents for the purpose of making sure everything about a business or transaction is how it’s supposed to be. Let’s take a hypothetical example. Say you want to purchase a fireworks factory. You would naturally want to know everything about the company so that you know what you’re getting into. Employment agreements, contracts with suppliers, insurance policies, and a lot of other things get sent to law firms so that they can review them. What would you think if the factory has a pending claim for $10 million against them? If the collective bargaining agreement with the fireworks union is ending next week? If the contract with the factory’s number one buyer is terminated if the factory is sold to a third party? You might reconsider the price you’re willing to pay or decide not to go through it. There is a lot of due diligence, no question about that, but you get to know the ins and outs of corporate transactions and learn what’s important when navigating your way through reams of paper.

Other things I did this summer:

1. Researched the implications of new securities legislation for clients;
2. Delivered securities to purchasers in exchange for cheques (very, very large cheques in some cases);
3. Looked for connections between a scandal and a key figure in pending litigation;
4. Wrote a memo on the financial and legal implications of a client proceeding with a transaction; and
5. Researched transactional precedents on SEDAR.

I know, I know, that’s a really vague list but that’s just an inevitable part of the sensitive work that we do. The bottom line is that even if you don’t think it’s for you, getting exposure to corporate law provides a ton of insight into how business is conducted from a legal perspective. And, if you’re anything like me and had no idea what a corporate lawyer does, you’ll finally be able to speak somewhat intelligently about it…somewhat.

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The Nuts & Bolts of Recruitment

Happy Thursday!

I am aware that it is Tuesdays with Tali on Thursday (confusing) but it is my last day of the summer tomorrow and I had to get at least one more Tuesdays in!

So, recruitment is around the corner. I am sure some of you are nervous, some more confident than others, and then there are probably the majority of you who are just generally confused about what is about to happen. Since I recall that confusion very well, I thought I would give you some nuts and bolts of recruitment for each stage along the way.

The Nuts & Bolts of Applications:

  • RESEARCH. It is never a bad idea to visit firm websites and see what they say about applications. Some give you explicit guidance (i.e. provide a letter of reference, or not), while others don’t really touch on it. Chances are that the director of recruitment at that respective firm wrote that part of the website, and reading their advice allows you to tailor your application to suit their preferences. Also, try to talk to as many people as possible about recruitment. Get your hands on example cover letters, and follow the very wise cover letter advice from Chris H. (See below).
  • PROOFREAD. Try to put yourself in the position of a recruiter. Poor Leigh-Ann has to read nearly a thousand applications. Don’t give her a reason to look twice at yours because you wrote “Dear Leanne”! 🙂
  • Again, for more on content, you all should read the wonderful blog by Chris H. below.

The Nuts & Bolts of On-Campus Interviews (“OCI”s):

  • SCHEDULE WISELY. Even if you get OCIs for all 30 firms that you applied to, think about whether or not you want to take all of them. This is a tough call and it really depends on your situation. It is a fine balance. You know yourself best, so think about how many interviews you think you can do well. Push yourself a bit, but I would suggest that you try not to overkill. Back to back straight interviews for two days is probably not going to allow you to shine like you should (and could).
  • PRACTICE. So, here is where I confess. I actually spoke to myself in the mirror (don’t make fun). I found it helpful to see if I had any weird habits when I spoke naturally. Although it was incredibly awkward when my sister found me interviewing myself in the mirror, it actually helped me to talk out some of my resume points. Know your resume inside and out, and try to think of a good story you can tell for each point. As Chris H. mentioned below, recruiters really love talking about your interests. So, be honest about your interests, and try to have some good stories.
  • DON’T PANIC. Breathe! Oxygen is helpful. 🙂
  • SAY YOUR THANKS. This is one of those unwritten rules that only the lucky ones hear about. Make sure to write out thank you e-mails to each interviewer you met with (the evening of the interview is a good time to write). It can be brief, but try to say something that will help the recruiter remember who you are. Try to remember that they have had an even longer day than you. They also need some help, so try to give them a hint or two as to what you discussed. An example: “Hi Leigh-Ann, I just wanted to say thank you for meeting with me today. I really enjoyed our talk about the food in Spain! I hope the rest of your day went well, and I would love the opportunity to meet more people from Cassels in the near future. Take care, Tali”. Something along those lines….and even though you will be exhausted when you sit down to write these e-mails, proofread, proofread, proofread.

The Nuts & Bolts of Call Day:

  • So, you survived the first two “screens”. Congrats! Time to reboot and get ready for stage three. There will be a designated call day where firms will call you bright and early to schedule an in-firm interview. Most often, firms will send out e-mails in the few days before hand to let you know that they will be calling. This is helpful because you not only know what to expect, but you also can develop a rough plan for your schedule on the three days of in-firms. Make sure to do this. It requires that you think of which firms you like most/least, and it is crucial.
  • Generally, the Monday of in-firms will be your busiest day, followed by mostly second round interviews on Tuesday, and potentially second and third round interviews on Wednesday. Typically, you want your first choice firm(s) as early as possible on Monday. Some people like to schedule a ‘buffer’ 8 a.m. interview as a warm up. This means that they will schedule a firm they are not so crazy about so that if they screw up their first interview, it doesn’t really matter. But, if I’m being honest, I think it’s a waste. Just try to bite the bullet. Go in strong at 8 a.m. because it is PRIME real estate. 🙂
  • SCHEDULE WISELY. As I mentioned, it is not a bad idea to think about which firms you really like before call day. Try to schedule those firms early on Monday so that the recruiters know that you are very interested in them. Of course, people have gotten hired at firms they only saw for the first time on Tuesday, but I would say the norm is to schedule your top choices on Monday. As for quantity- don’t overdo it. Four interviews on Monday is plenty because you will probably be asked at some point to go to a (or many) cocktail parties, and perhaps a dinner (don’t freak out if you don’t get a dinner invite….it’s really ok!). You still have two more days to plow through after Monday, so you want to be smart about your schedule.
  • SET TWO ALARMS. Yes, I know of someone who slept through their calls. Big problem! This is one thing I would say to worry about. You definitely want to be up in time for the calls to come in! Keep in mind, even though firms are only supposed to call after 8:00 am (if I recall correctly), there will be a few that cheat and call early. If you are still groggy and unprepared, it might startle you. Wake up a bit early, set out your schedule and be prepared. Firms will call you literally at once (the whole thing is over in about 10 minutes), and you have to find a balance of scheduling the firms in the times you want them. If you can’t fit one in on Monday because they are ‘full’, ask them if they would be willing to do a Monday lunch interview. I didn’t do that, but I heard that some people did and it worked out for them.

The Nuts & Bolts of In-Firm Interviews:

  • Congrats…you’ve now made it to the final stage of recruitment!
  • WALK YOUR ROUTE ON THE WEEKEND BEFORE. I was warned hundreds of times not to be late to a single interview, so in my paranoid state, I practiced my walk. I found it very helpful because I had a visual map of where I was, and where I needed to be next. I dragged my fiance with me and we made a Saturday afternoon day trip out of it. I also tried to navigate the elevators. A lot of the elevators down here are segmented into complicated two-floor systems with access to only odd or even floors. You don’t want to be flustered figuring out which elevator to get on! Keep in mind that the underground path can be confusing. I would only suggest it if you are comfortable with it. I went above ground because that’s where I walked my route.
  • BREATHE & EAT. I’m a foody. I needed to know what I was going to have for lunch so I broughts snacks, but also picked a place (on that prior Saturday adventure) for a sit down lunch. I ate some pasta (which some people might say makes you tired, but it’s my comfort and energy food, so I did it!), and I had a moment to breathe before my afternoon interviews. For me, it was my saving grace.
  • LADIES- SMART SHOES! I heard this a lot before the process, but it really is true. You are no good if your feet are burning off of your body! I went and specifically bought a more comfortable, yet nice, pair of low heels and I was fine (minus a few bandaids). You will be standing a lot and walking around (cocktail parties, getting from A to B etc.). Make sure you allow yourself to be comfortable. If you are in pain, it will probably show on your face, and in my experience, that’s not so helpful when you are trying to make an impression!
  • THEY ARE PEOPLE TOO. Try to remember that these scary interviewers are just normal (very smart and motivated) people. They have taken some time out of their normal schedules to sit down and see what you are all about. I viewed my interviews as conversations and to be honest, I enjoyed most of my interviews that day. You will probably want to think of a few good questions (hard to do, I know) for when they inevitably ask you if you have any. Saying that you don’t have any questions might not be the best call because there has to be something about this firm that you don’t know about. I always tried to ask about the interviewer’s own personal experience. I genuinely wanted to know how that person got to be where they are today, and what made them select that particular firm.
  • EXPRESS INTEREST. I would say that if you are very interested in a firm, be sure to make that known. Do not tell more than one firm that they are your top choice, but don’t be shy about expressing interest and asking to meet more people at the firm.

Call Day #2….

  • So, you are at the end and it is finally 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday. To be honest, by this point, you probably will have a good idea of which firms might call. There really is no advice that I can give for this part of recruitment….but I wish you all well!

Although I certainly don’t hold myself out to be an expert, the above points were really what helped me get through. Keep asking around. Talk to anyone you know who has been through this lovely process, and just ask as many questions as you can over and over again. Soon enough, you will start to feel more comfortable with the recruitment stages, and if you are comfortable, you will probably be yourself and end up in a better place.

Good luck to all of you! My apologies for the essay….I hope it helps at least in some way.

Lastly, to all of my devoted Tuesdays with Tali readers (if you exist), it has been a pleasure blogging this summer!

With love,


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What I Did This Summer

Due to circumstances beyond my control (namely, the coming into existence of a really awesome tobogganning hill with a sharp rock at the bottom of it), I was never able to give my kindergarten presentation on “What I Did Last Summer”.

But now that the incomparable Mr. Horkins has dropped a dime on the secrets of bulletproof OCI applications, and you’re all undoubtedly wondering what happens after you get hired for a summer at Cassels Brock, I finally have my chance to make amends!

So… *ahem*.

Hello. My name is Jeremy. I am twenty-seven years old, and I am in Ms. McGowan’s summer class of 2010. This is what I did this summer.

Through a few dozen turns of bizarre fate, I wound up doing litigation work almost exclusively. That itself is pretty unusual, and you can probably expect a lot more breadth of experience during your summer; the work I got just always happened to be somebody getting sued. Even when I got work from other departments, it involved an action of some kind. I blame the econodex: my proprietary combined measure of the economy and the humidity in downtown Toronto. People just didn’t want to get out of their air-conditioned offices to pay their bills. This summer had an average econodex of 62.1%, so what are you going to do? Folks gotta get their sue on.

Now, I’m a big litigation keener, so no harm done. And if you’re going to be stuck in one department for the entire summer, advocacy is the one to get since it involves arguing all other areas of law. Although I was always involved in a suit of some kind, I got to get my hands dirty in all kinds of product liability, corporate law, labour and employment, municipal law, franchise work, human rights, trusts and insolvency.

So take the below with the caveat that you’re probably going to be doing a lot more in the way of deals and regulatory work than I did. It’s hard to believe the summer’s almost over already, and that I’ve managed to do so much in just a few short months! Highlights:

  • Writing the first-draft factum for a municipal law motion (and winning!)
  • Throwing a talent show for charity!
  • Drafting a half-dozen statements of claim or defence
  • Eating an 18 inch hot dog with spicy peppers at a Blue Jays game and impressing more people than I sickened by at least two
  • Coming up with questions to ask during an examination for discovery
  • Pulling court documents for a real estate deal
  • Baking fifty cupcakes (with spicy chili chocolate)
  • Taking a crash course in tax law (also with spicy chili chocolate)
  • Cleverly avoiding an earthquake by going on a tour of wine country
  • Getting neck-deep in and attending daily at a real-life, full-on, all-the-marbles trial

Behold! The glorious brown rainbow of commercial litigation!

I managed to get in an awful lot of stuff this summer, and what have I learned? Well, first and foremost, I now know why 3Ls are so chilled out when you first meet them in September. They’ve been through the wringer and they know they’re going back at it next summer, so they’re savouring the warm, pillowy nest of law school in the interim. (This, of course, stands in contrast to the first- and second-year perception of law school as a flaming, spiky warm pillowy nest of insecurity and potential humiliation.)

Also, if the purpose of law school is to get you to think like a lawyer, a summer at a law firm gets you to start acting like one. I check my messages constantly, respond to everything right away, make appointments, organize my files, proactively have work ready in case it’s ever assigned and I stick to a schedule now better than I ever have.

I’m also — finally! — fluent in the arcane language of law, at least enough to do the equivalent of ordering a legal cheeseburger. I get the relationship between an affidavit of documents and answers to undertakings and where “will says”, discoveries, motion records, books of authorities, trial briefs, witness briefs, legal briefs and exhibits fall in the timeline and organization of a case, and what they can be relied on for, and what they can’t. Procedure finally makes some sense. If you’re reading this at the end of 1L, be warned: people will forget you don’t know this stuff. But be relieved: you soon will.

Mostly, though, and most rewardingly, I’m coming away from this summer knowing that this is what I want to do with the rest of my life. And really, I think that’s what the summer — any firm summer — is for. The hours can be long, and if I see another “Dad’s” oatmeal cookie I think my stomach may actually reject the rest of my body and strike out on its own in search of grubs and berries by the riverside, but I found out that practicing law really is about thinking for a living, alongside some of the most interesting and engaging people you’re ever going to meet. I like the people I get to work with, and I love the work I do. And what’s even better, I like the work the associates and partners do even more. That alone was absolutely worth the experience.

I’ve got one more post coming up before the end of the summer, but I should say now that if anyone needs to find me in 2010-11, I’ll be at Feel free to say hi if you’re heading to the U of T this year! (And also if you’re not, I guess.)

Alternatively, I can be found in a lawn chair out behind the Bora Laskin library for the next few months, aggressively catching up on some taking it easy.

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